Healthcare | WYPR

Healthcare

Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

CREDIT TMAXIMUMGE/PUBLIC DOMAIN

An immunologist from Loyola University Maryland says the draft plan for distributing a potential COVID-19 vaccine that Gov. Larry Hogan released Tuesday needs some work. 

“It's still a bit vague. It's still a bit broad, “ Dr. Chris Thompson, the immunologist, said in an interview. “But I think it's as good as it can be with the information that we have now.”

Under Hogan’s plan, the state would prioritize those vulnerable to developing complications related to COVID-19, as well as frontline first responders, health care workers and essential workers. 

SCREENSHOT VIA CHARM TV FACEBOOK PAGE

Baltimore’s health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa is urging residents to stay vigilant against COVID-19 with masks and social distancing, but also to protect themselves from the flu. 

At the mayor’s weekly briefing Wednesday morning, Dzirasa said that while the city’s positivity rate continues to decline, the daily count of new cases is 35% higher than last month’s. 

“We are here to remind people to continue to seek COVID testing at one of our mobile testing sites or at a clinical site,” she said. 

Saturday is World Mental Health Day in what has been a particularly difficult year for many Americans. 

Dr. Asha Patton-Smith, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente, said that the pandemic has been especially stressful for young people. 

“Social isolation and family stress has affected children and adolescents really more than any other demographic in this country,” she said on WYPR’s podcast The Daily Dose

 

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As Halloween approaches, you may want to rethink how you celebrate this year. 

Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist at Loyola University Maryland, says trick or treating may not be the best of ideas.

He told WYPR’s The Daily Dose there are ways to do it with minimal exposure to COVID-19.  

If you’re a Marylander in need of health insurance for next year, the open enrollment period starts in November and rates have gone down since last year. 

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Kathleen A. Birrane said prices for insurance plans have dropped for three consecutive years, for an approximate cumulative 30 percent drop since 2018. 

“The 2021 plans reflect really the lowest rates in years,” she said in a webinar Wednesday afternoon. “Which is extraordinary and wonderful.” 

SCREENSHOT VIA BALTIMORE COUNTY COUNCIL PAGE

The Baltimore County Council is voting on a bill Monday evening that aims to protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic. The bill consists of regulations on sudden residential rent increases.

Second District Councilman Izzy Patoka, the bill’s sponsor, presented the bill at a county council work session last week.

“The issue I'm bringing forward today.relates to an economic and health crisis,” he said at the session. 

CREDIT AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY

Baltimore City is applying for $2 million of rental assistance from the state tomorrow in the form of Community Development Block Grant Funds. 

City officials estimate that the $2 million would help about 333 households. But Valerie Piper, a city consultant for eviction prevention, acknowledged that nearly 10,000 households are in need. 

She said the state has about $16 million of block grant funds. 

@GovLarryHogan/Twitter

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that starting Thursday, indoor visitation may begin in nursing homes that are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks or positive cases. 

In addition, Maryland child care facilities will now be operating at full capacity. Since July, centers allowed no more than 15 individuals per room. 

Now facilities may accommodate up to 20 three-year-olds and four-year-olds, or 30 school age children per room. 

PUBLIC DOMAIN

Patients who’ve survived COVID-19 may be at greater risk of developing long term heart problems. 

A recently published paper in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology featured a study where 78 of 100 subjects who had recovered from COVID-19 developed cardiac abnormalities. Many of them had no heart conditions before contracting the virus.

Tmaximumge/Public Domain

State health surveyors inspect and fine facilities who do not meet COVID-19 regulations, including testing. But in Maryland, the surveyors themselves are not required to be tested. 

Dr. Joseph DeMattos Jr, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, said state surveyors visit multiple nursing homes without getting tested. DeMattos said this increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

“We have a responsibility as leaders in health care to test our state health inspectors for coronavirus regularly,” DeMattos said. 

CREDIT CARMICHAELLIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After a new outbreak of COVID-19, the University of Maryland, College Park is quarantining 200 students in one of its dorms for 14 days. The union representing thousands of employees at the university says it’s concerned about the safety of workers and students. 

Stuart Katzenberg, a representative of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 3, which oversees the union local. Katzenberg said that members of the union working at Denton Hall, where the students are quarantined, are now at risk of contracting the virus.

Wikimedia Commons/Frederic C. Chalfant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have ordered a moratorium on evictions through the end of this year to contain the spread of COVID-19. But housing advocates say that doesn’t mean Baltimore renters won't face a mass eviction crisis.

NIH IMAGE GALLERY/FLICKR

The science journal Neuron published a paper in July on the underrepresentation of African Americans in brain research, specifically in genomic studies that inform the emerging field of personalized medicine. 

One of the paper’s authors is Dr. Daniel Weinberger, director of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, a nonprofit located on the Johns Hopkins medical campus. 

Jay Hsu / Flickr Creative Commons

From the fear of getting sick to the sadness of canceled plans, children are experiencing a wide range of emotions as the pandemic persists. That stress takes a toll on their mental health.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Baltimore County Department of Health hit its goal of distributing 100,000 COVID-19 safety kits to residents. The kits include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and educational information about the coronavirus. 

Republicans in Maryland’s House of Delegates are criticizing a recent letter from Anne Arundel County’s Health Officer requiring private and religious schools to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to the health department, 14 days prior to reopening.

Neil Moralee https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilmoralee/

Stay-at-home measures help ward off COVID-19, but they take a toll. Some people are experiencing side effects --like depression--after weeks of self-isolation. The Mental Health Association of Maryland launched ‘The Connections Project’ to pair vulnerable seniors with volunteers who provide conversation and care, virtually. Kim Burton, director of the Association’s Older Adult programs, explains how it works. And we hear from volunteer Sharyn Doyle, and Barbara Feldman, who receives calls from her three times a week.

The Connections Project information can be found here. For Baltimore Neighbors Network, visit this link. For the Pro Bono Counseling Project/United Way of Maryland Warmline, call 211 or 443-608-9182.

SARAH Y. KIM

At least two people died and at least seven were critically injured after a gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore that destroyed three homes Monday morning. 

The explosion, which occurred near Labyrinth and Reisterstown roads shortly before 10 a.m., damaged surrounding homes. More than 200 rescue personnel from Baltimore City and surrounding counties were on the scene through the evening, searching for victims trapped in the rubble. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.

 

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Dr. Jay Perman, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said Thursday he decided to open the state’s 12 public colleges and universities with combined in-person and virtual learning this fall based on student feedback. 

“If we took a blanket approach and said nobody can come to campus I don’t think we would be serving the public good,” Perman said at a press call.

Wikimedia Commons

Environmental advocates went to Baltimore’s BRESCO trash incinerator Wednesday  protesting its continued operation. BRESCO, located off Russell Street near predominantly Black communities, is the city’s largest source of industrial air pollution, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Last year, the City Council unanimously passed the Baltimore Clean Air Act in an attempt to impose severe emission restrictions on BRESCO. But court documents filed this month indicate that Mayor Jack Young is negotiating a settlement with Wheelabrator, BRESCO’s operator. 

Advocates are worried that Young intends to extend the city’s contract with the company. The current contract is to expire in 2021. 

Wikimedia Commons

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan today, asking him to extend and expand on eviction protections.  

The letter requests that Hogan implement a moratorium on evictions until Jan. 31 and provide more rental assistance. 

“This is money that is, I believe, absolutely essential not just to the folks who are about to lose their homes, but to their landlords and everybody else,” Frosh said in an interview with WYPR.

The letter also asks Hogan to renew executive orders that protect Marylanders from debt collection and termination of utilities . 

SARAH Y. KIM

Since February, local doctor and baseball enthusiast David Mayer has walked through 13 Major League cities, stopping at their ballparks. He’s walking to raise awareness of preventable medical harm to patients and caregivers, the third leading cause of death in the United States. 

Saturday, the second day of opening weekend in Major League Baseball’s pandemic shortened season, he walked nine miles through Baltimore to Camden Yards, wearing an Orioles jersey. The Orioles, however, were playing in Boston. Thus far, he’s logged 1,100 miles.

NCI Center for Cancer Research/Flickr

Getting in-person cancer care may come with added risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. But doctors have been thinking of new forms of treatment and taking precautions to ensure that their patients are safe from the virus. 

 

Dr. Robert Donegan, Chief of the Division of Medical Oncology at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) said that treatment centers are thoroughly sanitized and have limited visitor capacity. 

Flickr/Esther Max

Where can those on the frontlines of healthcare turn for emotional support? Bonnie DiPietro interim president and CEO of The Maryland Patient Safety Center, tells us about an effort called ‘Caring for the Caregiver: Implementing RISE: Resilience In Stressful Events,' created in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins RISE Team and supported in part by the Josie King Foundation. We also meet Mindy Ralls, an intensive care nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She’s trained as a first responder in RISE, assisting colleagues who experience extreme stress on the job. She explains that ultimately, the goal is patient safety.

For more information about RISE, visit this link or this link.

Rachel Baye

Anne Rowe was diagnosed in 2001 with Von Willebrand disease. It’s a genetic bleeding disorder, meaning her blood doesn’t clot well. The Prince George’s County resident told the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday afternoon that, fortunately, there is a treatment.

“For us to be treated prophylactically only, it could cost us $288,000 annually with no insurance or medications,” she said.

Dominique Maria Bonessi

During the last General Assembly session, lawmakers created a temporary fix to stabilize Maryland’s Obamacare exchange after Congress repealed the individual mandate to buy health insurance. Now, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates are backing what they say would be a permanent fix.

University of Maryland Medical System

Asthma makes it difficult for thousands of Baltimoreans to breathe. Decrepit houses, trash and rodents can trigger asthma flare-ups. Would cleaning up poor housing cost less than frequent trips to the ER? A reporting partnership between Kaiser Health News and the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service looked deeply at where asthma flares up in Baltimore and what hospitals are doing about it.

We hear from Kaiser Health News’ senior correspondent Jay Hancock, and from one of the Capital News Service journalists who took part in that project--now a reporter for The Baltimore Sun--Talia Richardson.

Plus, the Breathmobile is run by the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. We speak to Dr. Mary Beth Bollinger, professor pediatrics, is the Breathmobile’s co-founder, and medical director.

More information at these links:

Kaiser Health News story - Hospitals Find Asthma Hot Spots More Profitable to Neglect Than Fix

Capital News Service package of asthma stories - Home Sick

A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and the Abell Foundation documents stark difference in asthma hospitalization rates in rich versus poor neighborhoods in Baltimore, and reveals a dramatic drop in the far southern part of the city after a pair of nearby coal-fired power plants installed air pollution control devices in 2009. Asthma hospitalization rates in the zip codes for the Cherry Hill, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay neighborhoods fell 57 percent between 2009 and 2013 – more than twice the drop citywide. 

Healthcare for the Homeless

Jeff Garrett had a nice life.  Married, two kids, he and his wife both worked, and his job gave him the flexibility to be at home with his children. Hardly the portrait of a man on the brink of homelessness.  And yet, in remarkably short order, Jeff found himself divorced, separated from his kids, penniless, evicted, mentally unstable, and contemplating suicide.  Jeff’s story opens the door on a conversation about mental health and homelessness.  What are the safety nets, and what happens when they fail?  What’s the emotional and physical toll of homelessness?  And what’s our collective responsibility as a society when it comes to helping the most vulnerable among us? This month on Life in the Balance, understanding, and coping with, homelessness. 

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